The Korean War Veteran Internet Journal March 27, 2013

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1 The Korean War Veteran Internet Journal March 27, Korean War Veteran Memoirs Series This is the second article submitted by a Korean War Veteran to be published in the 2013 Korean War Veteran Memoirs Series. Veterans are invited to submit true, succinct accounts of any aspect of their service, such as training, combat, hospitalization, on leave, the aftermath on returning from Korea, or other accounts. All veterans from all units and services are encouraged to submit their articles, up to a maximum of 1,000 words, about 80 lines. Veterans from countries outside of Canada are welcome to submit their accounts as well. The Lucky Irishman and the Phantom Point

2 Everyone at the Chosin has a story that could be told. The following describes one incident that is part of Cpl. Fladung, Cpl. Kelly and my stories. Roy F. Shaul Master Sergeant USMC Retired Large U.S. Marine column withdrawing toward Koto-ri after bitter fighting near Hagaru Editors Note: In the bitter days of November 27 through December 13, 1950, X Corps, composed then of the 1st United States Marine Division, 7th United States Infantry Division (both of which had landed as X Corps at Incheon in September, 1950), with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division included for this vast operation and with 41 Commando, Royal Marines attached, had advanced up the eastern side of the mountainous spine that runs down the centre of North Korea.

3 On the western side of Korea, the U.S. 8th Army, with United Nations units from several countries attached, had also been pursuing the North Korean Army to the Yalu River. Then the Chinese Peoples field armies emerged from the mountains in huge numbers and lit into the advancing forces in both the West and the East. In the West, the 8th Army, strung out for tens of miles along a single main highway corridor, was ambushed in many locations and actually routed, with tremendously high casualties. In the East, near the Chosin Reservoir (or Nanjing Lake, as it is called in Korean) the units of X Corps fought bravely in several locations in subzero weather, though ringed by the attacking Chinese. However, the withdrawal was not a rout. It was difficult and hard fought but some units, notably marines, though in some places many thought they could have defeated the enemy they faced if the Corps had stood firm. But it was not to be. Some of the units had been decimated, supply was virtually totally cut off, there were but narrow, rough frozen roads and the going was horrid. But they withdrew from the Chosin Reservoir area in organized formations and fought the enemy fiercely in all confrontations. The cost was high. More than 103,000 troops, both army and marines, were on the rolls of the participating units. Of them, more than 30,000 were actually committed in combat action against the enemy. Of the 30,000, more than 1,000 were killed in action, more than 4,600 were wounded in action, more than 4,800 were listed as missing in action (and many were never heard from again) and more than 7,300 suffered battle injuries, including thousands of cases of frostbite from the bitter cold and exposed conditions. The Chinese Peoples Volunteers had 150,000 troops in the sector, of which 67,000 were committed in combat action against the X Corps units. The Chinese suffered (by their own count and attestation) 19,000 total battle casualties and 29,000 non-battle casualties caused by the frigid weather and their lack of winter clothing. This is a story told by Master Sergeant Roy Shaul, of an episode that happened on the breakout of his 7th Marine Regiment from Hagaru, where they had met and fought fiercely with the enemy. On the breakout from Hagaru to Koto-ri, I was part of H & S Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. The progress was slow as the hills on the flanks and the various roadblocks had to be cleared of the enemy.

4 After a few hours it was dark and we had progressed only a few miles. We came to a burning house, which lit up an exposed area of the road. Our unit was divided into small groups. We would provide covering fire until our turn to dash across the open area. After making our dash we were moved up to the railroad tracks on the east side of the road to again provide covering fire. However, one of our tanks, located a few hundred yards away, started firing down the tracks to keep the Chinese from attacking across the railroad line. A good idea but four of us, 1st Sergeant Saigon Sam Close, Corporal Fladung, Corporal Kelly and myself, Sergeant Shaul, were pinned tight to the ground. When our unit moved out, we were still pinned to the tracks. The Battalion sergeant major yelled to our 1st sergeant that they were moving out and that we should catch up with them once they got the tank to stop firing. It was several minutes, though probably not as long as it seemed, before we got off the tracks and started down the road to find our outfit. But we couldn t find any of our unit. Finally a guy from Fox 2/7 (F Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th USMC Regiment) stopped us and said he and his men were the point of the convoy. They had been ordered to hold up. He said there were no Marines ahead of them. Well Saigon Sam, our 1st sergeant was an old China Marine and one thing he knew was how to follow orders. And the sergeant major had said to keep going until we found them. So off we went down the road beyond the Fox 2/7 point position. But we could see there were no footprints in the fresh snow. After a few hundred yards I called a halt. I told the 1st sergeant that I recognized a hill off to our right from the many trips I made between Koto-ri and Hagaru when we were advancing north a few weeks earlier. I told him we were still a long way from Koto-ri. We discussed the situation: It was seven or eight miles to Koto-ri, we were obviously ahead of our own units, we were not sure if Koto-ri was still in friendly hands, and we were not sure of the current password. Sam wanted to go on. I said no and the two corporals agreed with me. We finally convinced Sam to return with us to our own lines. The guy at the Fox company point told us there was a stream bed a few yards back where a lot of people had bedded down, waiting the word to move out.

5 We went there and stumbled over (resting) bodies in the creek bed, looking for a place to settle down. We found our sergeant major and the 1st sergeant snuggled in next to him. The two corporals and I worked our way to the end of the bodies around a small jog in the stream bed and settled down. Though bitter cold we finally managed to fall asleep. When we awoke about 8 a.m. the sun was shining brightly. We discovered that we were all alone. Apparently when the unit moved out no one realized that three of us were around the jog in the streamed. We worked our way back up to the road and peered around looking for any friendly or enemy activity. All was quiet. We saw no one. We figured the area had been cleared of Chinese, and the convoy had moved on to Koto-ri. So the three of us moved up onto the road and strolled towards Koto-ri. At one point we passed a wooded area to our right and an open field and low hills on the left; a quiet peaceful spot. After reaching Koto-ri it took awhile to locate our unit and we learned that the three of us were being listed as missing in action. After assuring the 1st sergeant that we were okay, we decided to grab something to eat. As we were heating up some C rations, the order came to fall in. The Division headquarters unit had been ambushed and needed help. So off we went, on empty stomachs, to provide some fire support for the Division unit. The area where they were ambushed was the same quiet spot we had strolled passed about an hour earlier! The Chinese were set up in those low hills and firing on anything moving along the road. When we had walked through the area there was not a mark on any of the trees in the woods. When we returned the woods was a shambles of broken, scarred, and shot up trees. We spent most of the day there fighting with no time to think about how we had just walked through this same valley of death. Later that night we discussed the whole situation. We figured the Chinese most likely were already set up when we were walking along the road. They could have shot us and no one would have known. Since three is the normal number of Marines for a point guard we figured the reason that they didn t shoot was that they thought we were the point of the next group of the convoy, and wanted to let the point pass through. The Chinese probably would have wiped us out if we had been any number other than three. It was a bit eerie later to think how we had strolled along thinking the

6 area was secured, and all the while we were probably in the sights of some Chinese machine gunner. When we saw what they had done to the trees in that wooded area we knew we were damn lucky to be alive. Being the phantom point had probably saved our lives. This being just one more incident of many that resulted in me being tagged the lucky Irishman. Master Sergeant Roy S. Faul, United States Marine Corps

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